Posts tagged: Germany

Timing Is Everything

Just back from a fantastic weekend in Birmingham. I know, for some readers that phrase alone, sounds like something completely crazy. Sure Birmingham does have a few negative aspects (a few which I will touch on in this post) but the City is much improved and this was my first visit since late August 2007. A great deal changes in three years. Before I get to the Birmingham segment of my Rock & Roll Weekend, let me start with my Friday working day and then my antics after the close of “play”. Friday is a critical day for me at work and I made a major effort to get into the office for 7:15am, to ensure I could kick off all the processes required for an extremely important report. I wanted to leave at 4pm (although the reality was, I could only leave once the report was ready and released!). Around 4:11pm, I finally was shutting down my laptop and could look forward to the weekend. The pressure had been intense but I had not let it phase me. Instead, I had just focused on the task (or rather multiple tasks) at hand, one at a time. I have to be honest though, it was the thought of the weekend that was keeping me sane! It was going to be great. A complete contrast to my feelings at 07:26am when I quickly updated my Facebook status before cracking on with work.

On the drive home, I blasted the stereo. I could relax, unwind and focus on all the things I had planned for the next few days. You know me though, this was not going to be just your average weekend. I had places to go, people to see and things to do. I got home around 5:30pm and quickly got changed, showered and my Mum gave me a lift to the train station. (There was no freak traffic event in Wycombe, like on Friday 11th June when I ended up jumping out of my Mum’s 308 and rushing into town on foot.) I bought my ticket and headed to the platform, I was perfectly on schedule, I had planned to catch the 18:25 (only two stops before the final destination of London Marylebone). I plugged myself into my Zen and zoned out, I was on my way! I text Niko to let him know I was still coming. It was supposed to be very different, I would normally have been working from home and headed into town on the bus around 5pm or 5:30pm at the very latest. Never mind, those were minor details. I was on my train, I had my music and I was on my way into London. I text Niko to let him know I was on the way and should make it to the pub in time for around 7:30pm. He response was just two words: “Good lad”. At Marylebone, I had to queue at the cashpoint before finally heading onto the tube. I had considered walking around to Baker Street, but then realised I had planned my Oyster Top-Up for the Marylebone Underground station, so that was not going to work. I made my way down the stairs (the escalator is being repaired or refurbished). I took the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street (one stop, I know extremely lazy) and then the caught the first Circle Line train to Liverpool Street. It was here I had originally planned to catch a District Line to Mile End and then the new(ish) London Overground to Haggerston and then walk over to Engelfied Road. This plan was broken, when then train driver explained the District Line was part suspended all the way to Barking. I had to take another option. Coming out of Liverpool Street, into a busy, but pleasantly sunny Friday evening in London. The pubs around the station were spilling out into the streets and after I got some bearings I decided what mode of transport to take now. I called Niko to get the bus number that would take me to the pub. He had sent it across as a message on Facebook to all those attending the affect but I had forgotten the number. It was 145 and I rushed around the bus station (which is adjacent to the train station itself but could not find any sign with that number or heading in the direction I wanted to go. I asked a few people but they were as helpful as a tin of sardines, so I made the executive decision to get a taxi. Although I made a circuit of one of the office blocks, searching for a taxi but they were all already taken. Eventually I find a guy with a free cab and showed him my Google Map print out and he told me it would be between £12 – £15 depending on traffic. The fare came to £8.80, as we had a clear run, unheard of on a Friday night but he still needed to consult my map to ensure he got to the right place. I thought all black cabs had to have an extensive knowledge of not just the main streets but these little hidden gems as well. I arrived and headed up stairs. It must have been coming up to 8pm as I said hello to Niko, gave him my card and started to be introduced to his friends. Then it was time for a well earned drink or two!

Rupa, Dani & Niko

Whenever I go out with Niko, he tends to show me parts of London that are off the beaten track. Although when I started speaking to his friends, they thought I deserved a medal, going from being in my office in Swindon around 4pm, and then being in North London (technically N1) before 8pm. Most of them were locals and the most tedious journey had been two stops on the East London Line.

I had been completely out the picture in terms of the World Cup Quarter Finals, not listening to the radio on my drive from work, or putting on the FM frequency on my Zen. I had asked my taxi driver, but he could only tell me that Holland had beaten Brazil which was a surprise. At The Talbot, the projector had been showing the Uruguay – Ghana match as I had walked it, the first half had been goalless up to that point. After some delicious food (it was a help yourself buffet, rather than the sit down and order individual meals as I had expected and it worked a treat). The projector was switched back on and they showed the penalties, although as I was outside on the terrace, I could not see the screen and let Niko’s friends relay the successful or failure of the penalty taker to me. It was a little while later I decided to call my old work colleague and football nut (he is now player manager of Henley YMCA) to get a full update on the football. He did not pick up his iPhone, but at 23:53 he text me to apologise and ask, “What’s up?”. I immediately called him. At this point in the evening, we had already been told to go downstairs, lack of space, meant we went outside but we then told due to residents, we would have to go inside and use the rear garden area.

It was here that I started to actually take some more photos and noted that Katherine (Niko’s gorgeous girlfriend) had changed into more comfortable flip flops from her rather impressive high heeled stilettos. Girls, will be girls, so they had to get me take a few photographs to explain that this was very much a case of practicality over fashion.

Lan examines that high heel!Lan, Katherine & One Designer Shoe

As we were about to be thrown out of the pub, Niko invited me back around to his flat a minute’s walk around the corner for the after party! It was at this moment I decided to call Chris back and get a full update on the football. Some analysis, not just the name of the goalscorers but details of talking points in the games. This conversation was perhaps the only thing that was going to keep me going until sometime on Saturday afternoon. (The next opportunity I would have to sit down and catch highlights either on TV or PC.). It was great to hear from him again and I was glad he was better after a spout of bad health (although his friends do say his is stuck together with sticky tape).
At the after party, Niko’s brother Toby and his girlfriend Rupa, gave them their present. A photo of Pete Doherty kissing some other band member. I am sorry, I have to confess my lack of musical knowledge in this area, but am sure someone will point out who the guitar player is. (Just leave a comment!)

Present UnwrappingPete Doherty

Niko’s parents, whom live in Chorleywood, up the road from High Wycombe, so offered me a ride home. Otherwise, my Friday night would have ended quite prematurely at 11pm (my last train home was at midnight ten, but I needed to get to Marylebone from deep North London, perhaps another taxi ride). I had a really great time and it was great to meet Niko’s family and friends. He has always been good fun, particularly when we worked together. There are plenty of stories I could upload to this blog but I will leave them for another time.

We left around 1:30am and drove through London (which as you can expect at that time on a Friday night at the height of summer, was extremely busy. I fell asleep, it had been a long tiring day and I knew that tomorrow was another adventure (I was already almost two hours into the day). Niko’s Mum woke me up, asking for directions as we got to Handy Cross and I directed them to the bus stop closest to my house, thanked them gratefully for the lift and then headed home. It was around 2:15am and my weekend had just began.

I woke up around 8:30am on Saturday morning, I was buzzing. It was a mixture of a great Friday night and the promise of a weekend in Birmingham, meeting old friends and perhaps even catching a few moments of the World Cup action. My friend had originally planned to pick me up around 10:30am, and I was all set for this,b ut they were delayed, so were going to pick me up around 11am instead. While I watched, I put the Chris Brown MJ Tribute from the BET Awards (which had been screened Stateside the previous weekend). It was an amazing tribute and surprisingly different. I have had the privilege to see Chris perform Thriller at the World Music Awards back in November 2006. You can see how much he has improved as a performer and entertainer. Sure, I agree that he has done some bad things, but seeing him be so emotional when attempting to sing Man In The Mirror, I can only hope he is trying to make that change.

I had two albums for our drive up to the Midlands, I had got out from the garage (while getting my Cystal XBox) Teg’s a-ha H&D (Headline & Deadlines) Collection. This was one of the first albums that Pav had burnt for me, a personalised greatest hits of the Norwegian trio and included all the case artwork. My other album was a mixture of new songs I had recently heard on the radio and had been playing pretty much non-stop in my car. The drive up the M40 was uneventful, we stopped at Warwick services to get some water and I bought the T3 magazine. It was at this time, we decided that I should take over the driving, although maybe I made the decision more myself. The weather was amazing and apart from the humming from the roof rack (which was costing us an increase of two percent in fuel) I was enjoying the journey.  We put on Drake – Find Your Love and Nicki Minaj – Your Love (which takes a sample of Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You’s). We got to Birmingham just before 1pm, and after dropping of my friend I headed to find Sippy’s yard! I had my sister’s TomTom with me and knew from earlier Google Map searches that I would only have to travel a few miles.

As I entered the area, I came to the realisation that this was very much an Asian heartland, with the takeaways, corner shops and ethnic stores. It reminded a little of Green Street. No, not that Green Street in East London (which I have never been to) but Green Street in High Wycombe, which is the defacto Asian area in my home town. There were cars parked either side of the road and it was very difficult to get down the roads, so being the courteous driver I am, I let other drivers pass by first before attempting to head down. In only one instance did I get a wave of a hand or the nod of the head (the international driver’s code for thank you). As I headed down St. Paul’s Road, I called Sippy. He walked out of his house and met me outside the park. There was a massive community event taking place and the whole area was heaving. I had parked the car up at the end of the the road and followed Sippy to his gate and then he stayed there to ensure I could get in when bringing the car back down the road. Once I parked outside Sippy’s house, I took a long sigh of relief. Then I realised, that perhaps in a few hours I would have to go through the whole thing again!

When was the last time I saw Sippy? Well we tried to remember but it was sometime in late May 2004. In those interviewing six years, Sippy had got married and had a baby girl. It was great to see him again and we shared a Pepsi, (for the record Sippy had a Diet Pepsi) and I handed over the Crystal XBox, to a very happy new owner. Then it was down to the business at hand, transferring some avi files. I got Sippy to transfer over the MTV Movie Awards so he too could see Les Grossman save the awards ceremony. After it was time for some serious work, so we had both the MacBook Pro and iMac burning some DVDs. It was a geek paradise, as you will be able to tell from the photos over on FlickR. It will only be a small percentage of readers and I’m afraid to say the majority of them will be male that will be interested in the contents of Sippy’s network cupboard.

It was great to catch up with my old Uni friend. It had been too long, but then we do tend to get very busy in our own lives and forget some of our friends that in reality are not actually that far away (eighty odd miles). It was just a shame his wife and daughter Zahra were not around, as I was really looking forward to meeting them. However, you can imagne how stupid people must consider this blog post. The hottest day of the year, but instead of being outside enjoying the sunshine, I am inside getting copies of movies. Our time was soon up, I had only been granted a window of a few hours as Sippy had important places to be. I was thankfully for any time, particularly after a gap of over six years. Before I went, I had to work out how to take a self timer photo. The first two attempts I didn’t press hard enough on the shutter release (yes I know I’m sure you have heard it all before!) but third time lucky, I got the shot!

Teg & Sippy

It was coming to quarter to 3pm, as I left Sippy and headed onto the busy streets of Birmingham. I was taken a slightly different route by TomTom, so ended up driving through ford. (Yes the irony, a battered old Ford Focus, driving through a ford). There was a young girl, perhaps about four on the bridge with her Dad and she waved as I drove through the river, so I slowed the car down and waved at her as I then made my way up the bank back onto the main road. I got my bearings instantly and parked up before knocking on the door of my friend’s house.

To my surprise, they were watching the football and as I walked into the lounge, Germany scored! However, it was when I sat down on the sofa, I realised that even though there was a Sky+HD set-top box on, the channel was BBC1 SD, so I got them to change the channel to BBC HD and began to watch my first World Cup match in high definition. (Okay, there was one HD screen at Yates for England Germany the previous weekend, but I had been watching the big projector, so that does not count!)

After some delicious food, prepared by our hostess, I was able to settle down to the football. The man of the house had arrived and the ladies made themselves scarce (into the garden). Match 59 of this World Cup was turning out to be a classic. Germany turning over Argentina as if they were not there. Could it be an all European affair for the final?

We left pretty much at the final whistle and drove into the City Centre, first to New Street to drop off some friends at the stage (whom just made their train by the skin of their teeth, obviously they had not read my recent train related blog post.) We then drove around to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express which was on a one way system, but eventually we navigated to the car park. After checking in, we decided to go into town for a bit before grabbing some food.

As we entered by Tesco Metro to grab some desert and drinks, Spain scored against Paraguay. Luckily there were big screens showing the game live (only SD mind). I saw the replay and realised it was David Villa, top scorer now and odds on for the Golden Boot you would say.

Today was rather a relaxing day actually, a relatively late ish start after breakfast, heading into the Bull Ring, getting some clothes shopping done. I was surprised at how busy the shopping centre was at 11am, just as it had opened. Primark too, had been very busy during the “browsing” time, from 10:30am, even though the tills would not be active for another half an hour. While in H&M trying on cheapish sunglasses, I heard a beautiful song. I took note of just one word from the song, which I believed was the title. Listening to the song when I got home, I realised that this song was special. You get these songs from time to time (or maybe I just look too deep into the songs I listen to and it is all in my head). It was a song I felt was written for me, for my particular circumstances. This is not the first time, I have noted this and written about it on my blog. (With the band Sister Hazel from an entry from early April 2003.) The song is by Charice featuring I.Y.A.Z. and the title is Pyramid. (Check it out on YouTube. Oh and yes, she will be appearing as a guest star in the next season of Glee. I better get a wiggle on and watch the season finale.)

A light lunch at Bella Italia before cruising back down to Wycombe. I got home around 4pm. Rather than collapse on the sofa as I should have done (I could not have in any case, as both my sisters Julie and Natalie were lying on the sofas). I headed straight out to hoover my car and then give it a quick jet wash before, re-fuel and then get back home to relax. It had been a wonderful weekend and I was actually looking forward to the reality of work tomorrow morning.

Four walls and love, packin’ more than enough
Holding on to one another, be the cover when it’s rough
Mother nature or disaster
Won’t stop our happy ever after

Wednesday 21st June 2006

This may surprise you but I tend to prefer to watch football in two places. In the comfort of my own sofa, at home. Or at the ground (Highbury and soon Ashburton Grove). I have only ever watched one game in pub group environment. (While you recover from the shock, let me explain). It was the England Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in October 2003. Looking back I started reading my archives as I often do and amaze myself how quickly the memories start flooding back, often putting a smile on my face. Back then, it was my final year at University and after a group of us wondered around the city centre to find a bar, we headed back to the SU bar and ended up watching there on the big screen. I decided not to go to Canary Wharf on Saturday for the first group game, even though I had until early on Saturday morning been quite open to persuasion. Dave persuaded me to come down to Litten Tree in the centre of High Wycombe. He messaged me while at work and explained he would be down there from around 7pm and to get there early for a good seat. I told him that as I finished work at 6pm by the time I got ready and had some dinner it would be nearer 7.30pm. It would be free to get in, I was assured.

My Dad got in just as I was having my dinner and said he would go down with me. We headed off just before 7.30pm and parked in the Sainsbury car park in Dovecot Street, directly opposite the pub. Walking up, we could see already it was quite busy and a small queue outside. It was student night, Bar 150, all mainline drinks £1.50, and you could tell the crowd was generally quite young. We paid £2 each to get in, which was bit of a joke, but I know of other pubs charging over £5 for tickets which had to be booked in advance. Heading to the bar, I felt the patriotic atmosphere straight away, with classic England songs being sung by drunken men at the back with the loud and deep voices. I text Dave, it was drawing closer to kick-off with a few minutes to go. Then, I looked around to the left of the bar and there he was, queuing for his beverages. He placed his order, got me to hand over the cash, while he went to hand the drinks over to his friends. I then went over to meet and greet them, some whom I knew from before. So we took our places, viewing positions for the match. We were watching one of the plasma screens at the back, but standing right by the staff bar door so constantly had to get out of the way for the bar staff as they came to collect glasses. Never mind, minor interruption. Come on England!

As you know I have regrets by the bucket load, but sometimes you just have to turn opportunities down and go with what you feel is right. My company was holding an exclusive football night at the Hilton in London for clients to enjoy a champagne reception, the game and guest speaker at half time, in the form of Harry Redknapp. At the last minute, due to cancellations, my manager offered two tickets to us in our team meeting. I thought about it for a few minutes but turned it down, as did Chris. We had to be there for 6pm and it would have been a made rush to make plans. Plus and perhaps more importantly I would not be able to wear my England shirt or actually get into mood, with the company and surroundings taken into account. At least down my local pub I could (to a certain extent) be myself. Do I regret turning down this great opportunity. No, not at all. Football is about passion in a relaxed joyful atmosphere. Something you cannot just bottle up and hope works at an exclusive hotel, with all the benefits of a lavish expense account.

So much has been said about the England game already. The injury to Owen. Sol Campbell making a hash of things at the back. Beckham going missing (again?) and Sven still not bringing on the boy wonder, Walcott. What is there really for me to add to the debate that has not been mention over the past twenty four hours. I love England and I love the World Cup but I’m realistic. I am a fan of the beautiful game and the best team deserves to win the competition (although that is not always the case, as I am sure those anoraks out there will be quick to point out). England need to play better and I am sure on Sunday afternoon they will put on an improved performance over the course of 90 minutes. England expects. Much much better.

My Dad has been gathering a great collection for me, of World Cup pullouts, souvenirs, guides, both Panini and Merlin sticker books (official tournament and FA England respectively) and other merchandise, over the past few weeks. My favourite by far are these stamps thanks to Royal Mail.

World Cup Winners

Sunday 18th June 2006

I enjoy the occasional quiet weekend. In recent weeks I have had far too much going on, while enjoyable it is not the same as staying in at home and doing nothing. I say nothing but I have just been watching the wall to wall football from the World Cup. Regardless of the countries playing I will try and catch the match, even if it means watching it in a window on my computer (as I am doing currently with the France versus South Korea game). It is the World Cup, you have to enjoy every second over the next few weeks for it will be another four years before we get the chance again. In 2010, however, I intend to make a big effort to get down to South Africa for some games (without or without England’s qualification. The atmosphere at this tournament, with the fan fest, has encouraged me to go, with or without tickets to enjoy the atmosphere. The main discussion and build up can wait until after 9th July.

Firstly we have to discuss Ghana’s game against the Czech Republic. Now Essien is a great footballer, but perhaps only now is he justifying the record transfer fee that Chelsea paid for him. He bossed the midfield along side the captain Appiah. An industrious performance, scoring an early goal and then a second to kill off the European nation, which is currently listed 2nd in the FIFA rankings. I was very happy for Ghana, to become the first African team to win in this tournament. They deserved it. I was looking forward to seeing them play and they put on a brave performance against the Italians. Here, they seemed to have built up some confidence and actually string some passes together to push the ball forward. The Black Stars to qualify through to the next round? Well if you listen to the jubilant, colourful supporters, you would not bet against it. It would perhaps take another shock in the evening game for that to become a greater reality.

Ever since USA ’94, I have followed the ups and mostly downs of the US national team. Why? I am not really sure, I suppose deep down I want them to do well. While their domestic league is ten years young but still perhaps a light year away from reaching the standard of the English Premiership, I enjoy watching some of their creative players, particularly those’s based in Europe. It must be an English mentality, to want to see the underdog do well. Soccer, may currently be a minority sport in the US, but over time, with a population so vast, it is only a matter of time before they finally arrive with a bombshell on the international stage. It is slowly growing in popularity, mainly pushed by the big immigrant community. Last time around hardly any matches were screened in English, four years on both ESPN and ABC are showing every match. The evening game was a mouthwatering prospect. Italy keen to confirm their position has group winners. The US to claw back some pride after a dismal showing in the first match (often refereed to by the American media as Match Day 1). Before kick off, there are the national anthems. My favourite national anthem by a country mile is the Star Spangled Banner. I wish I could say that my own country’s anthem was as patriotic, to rouse that feeling of unlimited pride in your stomach. The lyrics along with the almost swashbuckling melody makes it bring out the best (and worst) in it’s countrymen (and women). Searching on YouTube for some examples, I came across Beyoncé Knowles performance at the Super Bowl, which is perhaps the only time a celebrity singer really belts out the song, accompanied by full orchestra. The best recording I have on mp3, is by Kelly Clarkson song without any musical backing.

I could comment on the match but I am sure if you saw the match and heard the poor commentary from ITV, you too have made up your own mind on the referee. The BBC give as always, a balanced view on proceedings. Nine versus ten was never going to be a contest but the American spirit saw them through to the end. What makes me chuckle is how before hand, our hacks over at the Guardian World Cup Blog (second only to the BBC) believed it would be a case of getting the biggest score line to truly smash their credentials on the table.

Booked my tickets for the British Motor Show yesterday. I was originally going to attend on Saturday 22nd July but as that clashes with Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial at Ashburton Grove, I rescheduled for the Sunday. The tickets go on sale to silver members, but I have been well informed that as this is the first weekend of the kiddies school holidays, there is a high probability of many fans being on holiday. Last time around, over two years ago I went by myself to the NEC. Chris is coming along this time around, although he did take some persuading. What won him over was the fact that you can actually test drive a selection of cars on the day. Plus, this will be my first visit to London Excel. Expect a full blog report and FlickR set in due course.

Friday 16th June 2006

Well I made it to Friday, there was a slight wobble midweek but we made it. It has been a few days since my last entry and I have been thinking of what to write about. The World Cup has been dominating everything and perhaps the reason I find myself struggling to come out of bed in the mornings is the late highlights show on BBC1. It is all worth it and I do have the long straw in comparison to my friend in the Far East. Daniel has to watch the late evening game in the early hours of the following morning, around 3am! Then wake up a few hours later to go into University. It must be a tough life, but perhaps as he was in the ‘right’ time zone last time around. I have been speaking to him briefly on MSN while at work and commenting on the games (his personal message changes to comment on the most recent match). I love the World Cup, but so do another couple of billion people around this planet.

I should really mention England but there has not been written or said already. Ultimately there are more questions than answers. The team have one last chance to get everything together against Sweden on Tuesday evening. I sincerely hope that Sven has the bottle to bring Walcott on. After all, putting him in the squad last minute took some guts, surely he deserves a twenty minute run out.

YouTube is very addictive. Life threateningly so. You can search for one thing and end up watching a completely different amateur video made by some guys from Hong Kong and filmed on their college campus. I was curious to find what results would appear for the search of “take on me” my favourite (and arguably the people’s) music video of all time. Among all the versions of the video available to view, there was a rare original version before the remix and animated version with which we are all know and love. You can understand why it did not sell many copies. I continued scrolling down the pages and found a gem. The one and only Kanye West dancing to Take On Me at his live performances (he performed it at several on a recent world tour). But this is not the smooth movies we all love him for, but the Carlton dance. Enjoy, but trust me, you will find it hard to close your web browser.

This is the first World Cup with blogging at the forefront of all the action. While the BBC blog (will someone please explain to Gary what it means and what they are) is fantastic, I prefer reading some of the amauteur blogs out there. In particular, My Sofa World Cup discussion every aspect of the tournament including some of the poor television commentary and analysis. There are other blogs out there, but some of the best are linked from the BBC World Cup blog.

Friday 9th June 2006

It has just turned 1am as I begin to write this entry. I should really have gone straight to bed after working on client’s web site but opted to stay up, chat to some friends on MSN and blog. My main motivation is that the World Cup has started and unlike four years ago, when this blog was just beginning, I can now truly discuss how I feel about the biggest tournament on the planet. Particularly after what has been quite a rubbish week by my standards at work. Rather than dig up old news and bore you with the tedious tales from the office I prefer to look at the positive. Dave called me up last night. I was quite low at that time, but his call really cheered me up and made realise that there is so much to look forward to. I hope to meet up with him in September to go to a Palace game, although they will not be in the Premiership (as he had hoped prior to the playoffs). Dave is my best friend and one of the silent readers of this blog. He will read most of the entries but never comment or take part, but he will mention entries from time to time when he rings me. The second person to cheer me up as on MSN and as I had not spoken to them online for what felt like months, it was great to catch up. Hopefully we can speak on Skype over the weekend. Following on from my complaint to Vue, I have four (yes four) free tickets for Vue cinemas. I will be going to see Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift with Pav next week and then hopefully Pirates Of The Caribbean 2 with Clive a few weeks after.

Were you ready for the World Cup? Felt like I have been waiting an age for this day to come around. My digital clock at work, was counting down to this day as soon as the domestic season began in mid August. Chris, also had (although less accurate) countdown as his personal message on MSN. Yet, he was there for the final countdown today, as he was in Spain with his girlfriend. I couldn’t sleep last night, I was too excited. The World Cup, this is what dreams are made of. The tournament for me is the greatest sporting event on the calendar. International football just has an edge of passion, magic and panache, that is lacking in the domestic game. Sure, there are great goals and entertaining players throughout the leagues, but to play for your country in the World Cup Finals is the dream of many (if not every) schoolboy. While the European Championship is a good ‘filler’ tournament, it does not arouse the same degree of interest as this tournament. What I feel the media have forgotten is how that it could have been held here in England. We did bid for it, remember? Then again, seeing the state of Wembley maybe it was a blessing in disguise we did not, and the Germans did. Four years ago, seems such a long time ago, sure it is but then I was able to enjoy the games from the comfort of my student house or here at home. Now I would have to make do with a mixture of BBC Online, DAB Pocket Radio and Five Live AM in the car. Thankfully there are plenty of highlight programmes dotted around the schedules for me to pick up and of course rolling news channels with their own roundup ever fifteen minutes or so.

I am a big fan of Toni Braxton, she has a wonderful powerful, yet satiable voice. My favourite song is perhaps, Breathe Again, which I only rediscovered earlier this year. I found out only a few months ago that she was teaming up with Il Divo to record the official song for the World Cup, Germany 2006. Now, let me set the record straight, official songs for any tournament or event are usually nothing but cash cows to have fans part with yet more money. This song is different, it perhaps does reflect how, we the fans feel when the World Cup comes around every four years. Before this I would place Pavarotti’s version of Nessun Dorma as my favourite theme (anthem is just inappropriate) to a World Cup in my living memory. 1990 was the first tournament I recall watching on television from start to finish. Four years later, in the US of A, they had Daryl Hall with the Sounds of Blackness with the fantastic ‘Glory land’. Although it was more optimistic in nature than full of joy. Yet I think this year’s song beats both. Let me explain why. It is the perfect World Cup song because I had goose pimples all over me, as I heard the arousing chorus for the first time. I think Toni’s beautiful voice makes the song what it is, it needs that woman’s touch. With every football match, there is a sense of expectation, the sense of not knowing what is going to happen over 90 minutes, but knowing this is the biggest stage for footballers and for many a one off experience. I saw the video briefly on the music channels in the hotel in Norfolk last weekend. Having just watched it in full (thanks to YouTube dot com I have can pin down exactly why it works so well. It is pure emotion. Showing some of the magic moments from classic games from yesterday. That is it, the reason why this pointless game is so successful, so special is the emotions we feel, as we win, as we lose. We win together, we lose together. Either way, I hope we all have the time of our lives. To those that do not follow the beautiful game and do not care, they will perhaps never understand. Football is a religion, the players are our gods and this song is, for this year at least our hymn, our sermon.

I tried to watch the opening ceremony on the BBC web site while at work (it was dead on the phones today, by the way) but I missed it, the page just kept crashing due to excess traffic. Thankfully I had asked Mighty Mouse to Myth TV for me from home, so I should be able to download that over the weekend. It will only be the opening ceremony, but then again this is the first one I have ever missed. Call it routine, but I just tend to watch most open ceremonies for most events. Time for bed, in less than twelve hours England play in their opening group game.

Friday 21st April 2006

Let me take you back to almost exactly a week ago, as we drove deep into German countryside, looking for the Nurburgring and our hotel. Pav was extremely tired at this point and just wanted to rest after such a long journey. I believe Jav was the same, but perhaps he just wanted to throw Dee out of the car after having to put up with him for over ten hours. We were nearly there, I could see the signs, I felt we were nearly there. As we headed into the main road, the signs clearly started that we were in the right place. Then it was a case of finding out hotel, which was not going to be too difficult. We saw the sign for our hotel, the Dorint Novotel, but it was on the right hand side of the right, opposite the entrance, which we drove straight past. Then we headed towards the village of Nurburg, only to discover our mistake and then head back and parked outside the hotel entrance. There were three Porsches parked outside and our BMWs looked very average. Walking in, we checked in, given rooms 353 and 354.

P4160148P4160149

Then we went back to the cars, grabbed our luggage and headed upstairs through the glass elevators. I had asked the receptionist, Nadine if food was still being served but it was too late, but we were told of a bar down the road which served until late. So the plan was to dump our stuff and then head back out and get some food. When we reached the third floor, we were all impressed by the quality of the hotel but there were further surprises to come. Right at the end of the corridor, we found our rooms, using the cards to get into 353, I tried to switch on the lights, but then realised that hotel card was also the only way to power the room, so I placed it into the slot by the door, and sure enough the television, lights and air conditioning came on. Straight away I was taken by the view. Dumping my bag, opening the door and taking a look outside. There was not much to see, apart from the bright orange lit petrol station in the middle of the grand prix circuit. We had arrived. I just smiled. What an amazing view, what great rooms. I called home to let them know I had got to Germany safely. I am sure they could hear the happiness in my voice. This was going to be a weekend to remember. Turning back into the room, I finally noticed the television screen and then grabbed my camera to take a photograph.

Warm Willkommen

So much to enjoy and the weekend had only just begun. There was more to come, as we drove Pav’s car into the car park. This was a petrol heads dream with a bright orange Lamborghini Gallardo, several Porsches and a Corvette Z06 (with 505bhp). It was a dream for anyone with a love for the combustion engine and motor cars in general. I wanted to just spend time taking photographs all night, but my stomach had other ideas, so we headed out to meet Jav and the boys at the car and head over to the restaurant. It was coming up to around 11pm now. We parked up at the Motorsport Paddock and went it. It was extremely busy with a few fellow Brits downing the final few beers for the evening. We took a table right at the back and within a few minutes a waitress appeared and we enquired about food. She apologised that they were no longer serving but next door would be able to accommodate us for a few more hours. So we went next door, took a table, ordered some drinks and then ordered some food. I wanted to pinch myself. I had been looking forward to perhaps this exact moment for several months and I was here. I was in Nurburg with one of the world’s most dangerous racing tracks a stone’s throw away. All the planning, Google searching and pestering of friends / family had come to fruition. Sure the real excitement, the purpose of our trip was tomorrow, the highlight, driving around the track but I wanted to make the most of the weekend. My first weekend break.

After dinner we headed back to the bar next door, but it was closing up, so we turned around and came back and went up to the barman and asked when they closed. Looking confused at his watch he said 4am! Dee shock his hand as we ordered some drinks and took a seat at the back of the bar. Dee, began to show his credentials as our entertainment for the weekend, by telling us various Punjabi jokes that had us in fits of laughter. Straight way I knew this boy was going to be the life and soul of the party. After a few drinks we headed back to the hotel. Strangely it was only then I felt tired. I suppose the adrenaline of finally being at the hotel had kept me going through late into the night. Our drivers of course were the real tired ones, having done all the hard work and in strange circumstances. I believe it was the first time both of them had driven on the right hand side. Back at the hotel, I feel asleep quite quickly, with the thought, great prospect of what tomorrow, Saturday would bring.

The day arrived and looking back, we should have made more out of it. It is difficult to describe the feeling of being woken up by cars going around the race track outside. It is not annoying as such, because the double glazing is so good you hear so little of the raw power. We got up and lounged around the room for a while. It was around 10am before went headed down for buffet breakfast with the restaurant packed. They stopped serving at 10.30a, so we had to make sure we got helped ourselves to as much food to get us through to lunchtime. Jav sort of took charge which was good because we needed someone to set an agenda or nothing would get done. It was here, over breakfast that Dee delivered his first killer line. We had got tea but Jav had had coffee. Grabbing the coffee mug, he declared that the local tea had screwed him up and he needed some coffee to wake him up. There was a short pause before Pav replied, “It’s Earl Grey mate…” We cracked up laughing.

We all jumped in the 325 and drove round to look for the track, which we eventually found after taking a detour to an new construction industrial site. Pav and I headed over to the ticket dispenser and purchased four laps at €56. The ring was busy with traffic in both directions to the main roundabout, which sits just outside the entrance to the paddock. I was surprised at how small the whole complex was. There was a small office, a tiny restaurant and bar in the middle and of course the famous BMW M5 Ring Taxi. Back to that (and Sabine) later. Jav was nervous, you could tell, as Dee (in the front passenger seat) set up his mobile in the stand, reading to hit record and film this momentous occasion. We headed up to the barrier and after inserting the card, the barrier lifted and we accelerated onto the track, the four lanes (two for bikes) are filtered into a single lane with cones to direct us onto the track and then we we away. Jav wanted to put his foot down and he was pushing his foot to the floor. The was all the passengers, shouting easy to get Jav to calm down. I think he really wanted to push the car, but found the handling rather erratic, particularly with the extra weight and not knowing what was around the next bend. It was relatively busy with several faster cars with experienced drivers taking us easy. The first car that actually did was an German plated E30 with the passenger pointing to his eyes in a gesture that the driver should be looking behind him constantly while on the track. Pav and myself then constantly kept an eye through the rear window and shouted when we saw a car approaching at high speed. Overall it was a great experience, even it it took over thirteen minutes. It was not too bad for the first time. At one bend we saw a motorcyclist running to our vehicle, with both arms up in the air, signaling us to slow down, which we did. Putting on our hazards, we turn to to the left to see two bikes on the road and the crash barrier smashed, with one rider lying on the floor. He had been going too fast around the corner and lost control of his bike. We slowly drove past the incident, as an ambulance was called. There was perhaps only a few more miles to go but we kept it easy, there was no rush to the finish line. They do not call it the most dangerous track in the world for nothing. So far it had lived up to the billing. As we pulled off the track there was a big queue of vehicles also leaving the Ring. We then headed back to the hotel, dropped off Jav’s car off and changed into Pav’s M3. On this occasion, I was sitting up front. We headed back to the track for our second trip around and Pav really gave it the full throttle. Once again, the car was waited down and it had got busier on the track. We saw the BMW M5 Ring Taxi being smashed around the track at insane speeds. It tailed other cars, until they moved out of the way and then took them out in a flash. It was exhilarating to watch. There were some other crazy drivers much less experienced and in far less capable vehicles bombing around the track with a do or die attitude, we quickly let these individuals pass by. Parking up the car after our time on the track, we headed back towards the ring restaurant. As we did, the M5 Taxi drove by with Sabine Schmitz at the wheel. Jav almost shouted, “It’s her!” To which she seemed to ignore and just smiled at us, before driving back around to pick up another set of customers. We got a drink at the bar, opting not get any food. After taking in a drink as more cars raced onto the track we went to find out about the Ring Taxi for ourselves. Heading over and pushing Pav forward to speak German, only for us to discover the reception staff spoke perfect English. The bad news however, was that the taxi was pre booked until the middle of May. Next time, I’ll book that as soon as I’ve booked the hotel. We headed back towards the hotel but stopped by to the Motorsport Paddock to get some late lunch, it was nearly 3pm afterall. We ordered a big helping of food and were all quite full by the time we finished at 5pm. Jav felt sleepy and although I didn’t admit it publicly at the time, so did I. We headed back to the hotel and retired for a few hours. In the end it turned out to be less than an hour and half. I feel asleep watching television, while Dee and Pav watched the racing from their balcony. Then I was awoken by the buzz of heading back to the Ring. Dee was going to travel with Pav and go for one last lap. Prior to this, we had agreed to take our final two laps (which we had remaining on our ticket) the following morning, weather permitting, when there would be less traffic. On hearing the excited noise of the boys heading back to the track, Jav got up and said he would go aswell. We rushed down to the car park, grabbed the cars, only for me to leave our ticket in the safe and have to rush back to our hotel room to get it. We then headed back to the track, but after seeing a few friends from the E36 Coupe forum we went off road to park up and chat to them and head onto the track in some kind of convey. Just to the side of the main roundabout was a big track of farmland, open as an extended car park for cars as they waited to head onto the Ring. It was packed and as we drove around to park our cars, Jav’s 325 got stuck in the mud and had to reverse out, wheel spinning backwards. There was no way Pav was letting his precious M3 get stuck in the mud so it was time for some stunt driving. He put the shift into reverse and just put his foot to the floor. The cars behind just had to move out the way. We then headed back out of the car park. One problem, there was just one road and about five cars coming in our direction head on. No cars were moving and it took a German to get out of his car and actually direct the traffic around. It was here we met up with Yat a nd a few other boys off the forum. The track had just been closed for an accident for nearly an hour but had just reopened. However, we were warned that has it had been closed for such a long time, it would be advisable to take it easy. Many people suddenly go crazy after having to wait for so long to get their turn. Dee set up the camera on their car to film us on this circuit and record all the action. As we only had one ticket, we had to watch out for any marshalls and insert our ticket but leave it lose so that Dee could reinsert to register the final lap credit. We were off but the warning were credit, it was extremely busy but with only one passenger the ride was much better and the car handled well. Pav had already tightened the front suspension to enable it to glide through the corners with little trouble. Although this was perhaps the busiest the track had been all day, Pav found it the most rewarding lap, perhaps because he knew the capabilities of his car and some parts of the track. The walkie talkie was constantly buzzing with Dee letting us know of cars coming up close behind. The 325 kept up well and even had an opportunity to over take but did not, for the sake of the film. We headed back to the hotel and went to our rooms to plan our evening.

It was around 7.30pm when Jav said we would drive to the nearest city, get a nice meal at a restaurant and then hit a club or bar. Pav and myself headed downstairs to use the computer in the lobby. There was someone using it, so we waited patiently, only for a Pierlugi Collina look alike to start using the net and spend time watching videos from the Ring. There was little chance of us getting on there, so we opted to ask the receptionist, Nadine. We asked what the nearest cities were. She enquired as the reason for our excursion, “What for, to make party?” I wanted to start laughing but instead just nodded and we were told of two cities nearby. Köln was about an hour drive away north, while Koblenz was about thirty minutes away. Personally I would have preferred Cologne, as it is the oldest city in the country but understood we needed to get the logistics of this Saturday night out, just right. Heading back to the hotel room, we told the guys of our findings and we started to get ready and within twenty minutes or so were in Jav’s 325 heading putting in our destination into the Tom Tom software. Jav put on an MP3 CD on his stereo and from the opening few cords I knew this was a song I would like. However, there was a major problem with his ICE, resulting in a piercing buzzing feedback from the amp, which made songs heard at low volumes (particularly in the rear) unbearable. To compensate and improve the quality, the volume was blasted up. The song he played was a smooth RnB track by Lloyd featuring the angelic vocals of Ashanti. I knew straight away that this was a song I would download the moment I got back home. I asked about the song title, but there was no need, the chorus came up soon enough. Only for the scratched CD to begin skipping and for Jav to ultimately turn off the stereo. The track was called Southside and the debut single from the album of the same name released in 2004. I am surprised it missed my radar, as I am such a big fan of smooth RnB. You know the type, songs you would listen to while driving to pick up your gal. (This was confirmed later, when I discovered Jav had also copied Savage Garden – I Knew I Loved You on the same disc).

We eventually found the city centre after driving around for a few minutes and parked up on what appeared to be a main shopping street. As Jav reversed, Dee who had been sitting next to me at the back woke up from his beauty sleep and said, “Bruv, your not going to find any clubs here, trust me…” Thanks for those words of wisdom after we had driven some fifty miles. There were some 17 year old girls waiting at a bus stop, so Pav and I (urged on by Jav) went to ask them about any club that was near by. Just up the road and on the left, we were politely informed. We thanked them for their time and ushered the guys out of the car. They crossed over the road and we walked up to the club. There was quite a crowd of people outside but no real queue. We walked up to the door, to find three doormen, one who was bald. He said ‘Nein’ in stern voice, closing the door in our faces. Pav and I looked at each other and shrugging our shoulders headed up the street. We looked for other more friendly bars, but everything was quite busy and it was getting late. It must have been coming up to 10.30pm by now. We walked around for a while, through the main square to find a nice cosy Italian restaurant, where we were warmly welcomed and ordered some food. After quite a lavish meal, where the starter was bigger than the main course, I felt surprising full and sleepy and in no mood for dancing. It was several minutes after midnight by the time we headed back to the car. Jav was tempted to bottle the door of the club that had rejected us. It may be 2006, but attitudes in some parts of the world have not changed. You would be worried that this country is about to host the biggest sporting event on the planet in a few months.

Due to a malfunction with the Tom Tom, we did not get back to the hotel until 2am. I felt sorry for Jav, he was driving at night, without any idea if he was heading the right direction, with all his three passengers sound asleep. Apart from the odd curse to the GPS system, I did not hear anything but woke up towards the end of the journey. By this time Jav’s concentration was lapsing and he blasted on his stereo to aid his conentration. Singing along to a garage track, Monster Boy – I’m Sorry. I thanked him when we eventually got to our hotel, but I think he just wanted to fall onto his bed and rest.

Sunday, perhaps looking back was a wasted day. We got up quite late and noting that the track was quite wet tried to have a bit of a carefree day and see where it took us. After breakfast we chilled in the hotel for a while before heading off to the castle. Castle Nürburg is perhaps the second most famous part of the village (after the racing track) ‘burg’ actually means castle, which explains many of the city / town names across Germany. We headed over to the castle and took a walk up to the top of the tower. The castle is clearly visible from our hotel balcony and is the imposing local landmark through day and night (when it is lit up). We walked up to the main gate, to discover it cost €2,10 per person. Then looking through the ticket office, there was nobody in, so having handed all our change over to Pav we decided to leave him carrying it. Walking up the stony road, there were just a few local tourists on this quiet Sunday afternoon. Most people had opted to stay in bed. Stopping to take some photos, we brave the narrow entrance and climbed the stairs to the top. The view was amazing and you could make out our hotel and the main paddock where you join the Ring.

View from Castle NürburgView from Castle Nürburg

All across you could see the beautiful green moutains of the Rhineland. Breathtaking, majestic, peaceful, with a tiny trace of fog descenting over them. A glorious view and well worth the walk up. Sure this was a lad’s weekend away, all about the cars and the track but it was great to spend some time away from burning rubber and actually take in our surroundings. I feel too many people go to places, all across the world and never actually seen anything. They go with this predetermined agenda to complete a set critera of objectives but come back unsatisfied.

Two final incidents to mention, the first while still on the continent. We were about fifteen to twenty minutes from Calais and having switched drivers, I was riding with Jav in the 325. A dark Renault Megane estate was tailing Pav’s M3 but as we keeping up a steady speed in our two car convey, there was no option for him to undertake. Jav noticed him in the rear view mirror and requested they pull over to let him come up behind us. Then Jav would let the cat out of the bag! Accelerating he came up behind us, hoping we would move out of the way and then took both hands off the wheel to shrug in disapproval. This Frenchman was angry now. A few minutes of driving at a steady 110km/h, Jav put his foot down and accelerated away into the distance. The black Megane tried to keep up but with little affect. Then Jav slowed down again and really start to taunt the driver. He asked Pav to pull off to the slow lane ahead, so we drove up pulled up next to him and matched his speed, then opening our window preceding to have a long winded conversation about nothing. I was in stitches in the passenger seat, watching in the wing mirror as this temperatures started to boil. Jav was loving every second and seemed to be a veteran at the game. Eventually the driver did pass, but we only had the satisfaction of seeing the passenger, on the phone (to the police perhaps?). On the other side of the water, as we drove back to Wycombe, we listed to Invicta FM. It was the only station worth listening to in range, BBC Radio 1 was playing some heavy dance, even though it felt like a Sunday evening, it was a Monday and I had to keep reminding myself it was so. The Fridge presented by Stephen Sullivan winding down after a Bank Holiday Weekend. Callers were requesting their own songs and the first to be requested as we listened was A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton. (Wikipedia is amazing, I’ve only just discovered from reading the hyper linked entry that Vanessa’s boyfriend is Stephen Jenkins, the lead singer of 3EB!). This song was perfect for the drive home, as we had covered nearly 1000 miles on our weekend drive to Germany. The second song requested was the Candlelight Mix cover of Heaven by DJ Sammy. A moment to sit back relax, we were almost home and look back at the weekend, with a smile.

The low point of the weekend came when I got home, it was at 22:42 I called the RAC. My battery had run flat and needed kick starting. Of all the talk about having problems with Pav and Jav’s cars, it was my car back in London that let the side down. I had work in the morning and there was no point in me waiting to call them in the morning, so I called them straight away. Within fifteen to twenty minutes On Time arrived in the big pickup trailer. The roar of the diesel engine must have woken most of my street, but I did not care, I need to bring my car back to life. Surprisingly when it did eventually start, I was told I would have to drive it around for about an hour to make sure the alternator started to charge the battery enough for a cold start in the morning. So I planned to speed down the M40, turn around at Uxbridge before it becomes the A40 and then head back home. When I signed the paperwork, the rescue guy, told me that he had been down to Nurburgring himself several years ago for a long weekend, racing trucks! Wow, everyone into cars has been to that place and now, so have I.

Saturday 31st August 2002

So, August comes to an end. I have to say, that this is not be the best month of my year so far. Although the year has gone extremely well. Events at the beginning of the month are to overshadow the rest of the year. I am not letting this phase me though. There is so much going on, so much exciting things working out in my life.
For once in my life, I am making big plans and schemes for the future. I am just going to glow with the flow, sit back and see what happens. Hopefully everything will
work out. All that matters is that I get what I want. Only time will tell….

As always, thank you for your kind support during this, difficult time. Its at these times in your life you realize who your friends really are. Music has helped. I have been listening to some extremely uplifting songs, that have made me feel better. I mean, its amazing how some 3 minutes of audio can take you from the gutter to the
blue sky. Tomorrow is going to be tough, but I will get through it and by the conclusion of the day, the result I have been longing for will prove everyone wrong and me right.

Looking back to what I was doing this time last year (is amazing!) It was properly, the most happiest time of life. I was in Leicester, looking forward to England playing Germany in Munich on the Saturday evening (technically tomorrow – 1st September). The world was entirely oblivious to what was going to happen, in some 10 days time. I wish, I could go back, and warn people about it, and even put a small bet on England beating Germany 5-1, and being laughed at by the bookmakers.

And then I come out of my daydream and wake up to my current circumstances. Oh well, what a difference a year makes? Not much updated on the site. I’m going to concentrate on that once, this whole episode in my life has blown over.

Friday 21st June 2002

It was not to be! Oh, how we can dream of what could have happened. When Owen scored, the country was united for some twenty minutes, in celebration. England were leading 1-0 against Brazil. But, the gods above were not looking to aid our boys and we lost. Enough said. I am sure the media, will continue the post-tournament analysis of the England team’s failures. I am just looking forward to the next big international tournament, Euro 2004, to be hosted by Portugal. The USA played with much confidence, and were unlucky to lose to Germany 1-0. The score line does not reflect the hard work the Americans put in, to try and level the deficit. News on the site, well I am thinking of creating a mirror of this site on another server. This will allow more users to access the site and provide a backup, should this server be
unavailable or down. I am working on the transfer, hopefully the site will be up by next weekend. Some updates, to audio and top ten pages.

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